Five thoughts on the Ravens’ 29-0 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
-- If you needed more evidence that Lamar Jackson has made major improvements throwing the ball since last year, his first pass of the 2019 season provided it. Jackson rolled to his right and hit wide receiver Chris Moore in stride for a 30-yard gain. Yes, Moore was wide-open, but remember when Jackson, rolling to his right, threw a ground ball intended for Willie Snead IV last year in Carolina? This time, Jackson gave an effortless flick of the wrist for a strike. He’s come a long way and there’s still room to grow. That’s exciting.
With all that said, let’s make no mistake that this will still be an offense that runs the ball … a lot. After Jackson’s 30-yard completion, the Ravens went run, run, run, field goal. But if Jackson stays on this trajectory in his passing improvement, opposing defenses will be off-balance and the Ravens will be better equipped to bounce back from big deficits.
-- Now for the rookie report. Wide receiver Miles Boykin was one player to watch tonight because he’s been so impressive in training camp practices. Would he transfer it to a game? The Ravens gave him ample opportunities and it was an up-and-down night that ended in the right direction. A couple catchable passes glanced off his hands, but his potential is obvious. Boykin has size, speed and maturity to make an immediate impact as a rookie. After a throw his direction was picked off, Boykin and rookie quarterback Trace McSorley connected on a perfect throw-and-catch touchdown that was unfortunately marred by a holding penalty but won’t be erased from the Ravens’ memories.
Outside of his interception, McSorley was quite good. His path to the 53-man roster still runs through special teams, but Robert Griffin III’s injury, paired with McSorley’s strong play, makes you think that he’d be good to have under center juuust in case. McSorley is better than you would think a sixth-round rookie quarterback should be this early. He looked more comfortable than Jaguars backup Gardner Minshew II, who was also drafted in the sixth round, 19 picks ahead of McSorley. Rookie fourth-round running back Justice Hill is explosive in the open field and will be fun to watch in the passing game this year.
-- It’s one preseason game and the Jaguars didn’t play new starting quarterback Nick Foles and other first-teamers, but the Ravens’ pass rush looked a lot like last year, just with some different names. Defensive end Chris Wormley was disruptive in the middle. Matthew Judon immediately got on the board with a half-sack. Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser were fast off the edge. Shane Ray dropped the quarterback as soon as he entered the game in the second half. This won’t erase concerns about the pass rush, but it should ease them a bit.
-- I wouldn’t be shocked if General Manager Eric DeCosta receives some phone calls tomorrow morning. Expect 55-, 45-, 29- and 26-yard field goals by Kaare Vedvik to interest kicker-needy teams in a trade. The strong-legged Norwegian probably would have been playing elsewhere had he not been brutally assaulted right before final rosters were set last year. Now he’s back and proving once again that he could kick for any team in the NFL – except Baltimore. Good for him, and pretty cool to see Justin Tucker’s reaction to Vedvik’s 55-yarder. Oh, and Vedvik also unleashed a pair of booming punts to provide additional value.
Quick Hits: The Ravens aced their first test against another team. They fared well in the two joint practices and were dominant in the game. Winning is always good. … It was called back because of a holding penalty, but the Jaguars’ 102-yard kick return for a touchdown can’t please new Special Teams Coach Chris Horton. Better bet Head Coach John Harbaugh, who has been a bigger part of the special teams coaching since Jerry Rosburg’s retirement, will iron that issue out. … Defensive tackle/fullback Patrick Ricard has had a very good week. He dominated in the joint practices and got two sacks. … Happy to see Cyrus Jones, who was forced to sit out most of the offseason because of an unidentified medical issue, get a pick-six. He's had a long road back to the field this year. ... In yet another feel-good story, defensive back Bennett Jackson get an interception on an excellent read and react. In his fifth year, he has yet to make a 53-man roster and play in a regular-season game. It’s going to be hard in Baltimore, but the guy can flat-out play. … Jermaine Eluemunor started at left guard with James Hurst stepping in at right guard for resting Marshal Yanda. Everyone seemed to hold up fine. ... You could practically hear the collective groan inside M&T Bank Stadium when Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone threw a challenge flag alleging pass interference on an incomplete pass to end Jacksonville’s second drive. This is the NFL’s new rule change at work, meant to eliminate refereeing mistakes like the one that kept the New Orleans Saints out of last year’s Super Bowl.